Recently I found a journal I’d written over 20 years ago. Even back then, one of my pipe dreams was to run a community coffee shop with a health practice behind. I’d written quite extensively about what it would look like, and even come up with sample menus.
I’ve always loved this corner building. It’s been a tea room of sorts since the 1850s, but recently looked a bit derelict and uncared for. One day I saw a To Let sign had gone up and literally slammed on the brakes to call the landlords and arrange to see it the following day. That night I made some sketches of plans and basically went in and told them I was their man. They liked my vision and enthusiasm, so we all decided to go for it.
This area truly epitomises Camden. You get the full diversity of residents, plus it also has loads of offices with people working in fashion, media, construction and architecture too. Brian O’Riley, the architect who was a tremendous support on this project, works just over the road. We wanted to give the place a refined look, more like a traditional apothecary than the usual rustic chic coffee shops.
We went for a touch of Wes Anderson with the design. To get coffee and treatment rooms to work side by side, we thought having little bells on the wall worked well. At one point I wanted a little pulley system too, but we were running out of time and money. We painted the ceiling gold as my surname pretty much demanded it, but also in acknowledgment of the brilliant pressed metal you see in Australia. That’s where my wife is from, and we’ve done a lot of field research into their coffee shop culture – still more advanced than here.
A little bit of what you fancy does you good. I’m a big fan of caffeine. I wrote my 45,000-word thesis on its effects, and discovered that it isn’t bad for you. There’s an increasing neurosis around health today, and it unfortunately causes a lot of anxiety for people. Life is not a rehearsal, you’ve got to get on and live it, and have a wonderful time. This reflects my approach to my work in osteopathy too. We support all aspect of the wellbeing and vitality of our patients, and if that includes enjoying a glass of wine or an espresso alongside getting enough sleep and exercise, then I’m all for it.
Osteopathy is inescapably honest. It’s simple and personable work, but it genuinely feels a great honour and privilege to be able to help people in this way. I had to trust my intuition to follow this career path. I really loved fine art too, but I’d seen some health practitioners have a profound impact on my family’s wellbeing when I was growing up, so I ultimately decided to train as a natropath. I like the holistic approach to health, to look at all elements of the individual.
We aim to help people get on with what they really want to be doing. Ultimately, myself and associate practitioner Andrew Hudson help realign the musculo-skeletal system to allow the
body to heal itself, and let people get on with life. This premises is new, but I’ve been in the area for over 20 years, and have treated generations of the same families. I trained as an Osteopath in Hampstead, went clubbing in King’s Cross and revised on the Heath, before setting up my first practice behind Neal’s Yard on Chalk Farm Road.
I once got officially told off by Theresa May. Somewhat surprisingly, in her previous capacity as Home Secretary, Theresa May sent me a stern letter. The crime? Hanging a hammock in a royal park. I thought it was a joke at first, as I did on the day, when I was lounging in the hammock with my girlfriend (now my wife) and the police came over to tell us to stop it at once.
We softened the edges. While the clinical side is the core of what we do as osteopaths here, for this new practice, we didn’t want to have a chart of a skeleton on the wall or certificates of qualification on the wall. It’s nice to create a warmer, softer environment. In fact the only clue as to what I do is the tunic I wear. While we work extremely hard, it doesn’t really feel like a job. It’s too rewarding.
Fancy a coffee? We use Climpson and Sons beans, as they’re delicious and the company have ethical relationships with the growers in Brazil. Milk is from a single herd dairy in Rye, cakes and pastries from Yeast in East London, and bespoke caterer Polly Wedderburn is providing us with salads, quiches and other amazing creations. And we do a really nice granola and honey topped with bananas from Inverness Street fruit and veg legend Ted. Stop by.